Philosophy professors discuss the devil

Molly Dotson, Staff Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Dannie Otto, one of the philosophy professors speaking at Does The Devil Exist,  answers a question posed by one of the audience members on Wednesday in auditorium of Coleman Hall.

Molly Dotson
Dannie Otto, one of the philosophy professors speaking at Does The Devil Exist, answers a question posed by one of the audience members on Wednesday in auditorium of Coleman Hall.

Students filled Coleman Auditorium on Wednesday to play the devil’s advocate and discuss whether the being is real.

The panel titled, “Does the Devil Exist?” debated the reality of an evil spiritual being.

Philosophy professors Dannie Otto, Gary Aylesworth, Grant Sterling, Brian Beakley and Jason Waller, made up the esteemed panelists who had 10 minutes to present their arguments. Their different interpretations resulted in varied answers to this seemingly closed-ended question.

For example, Otto, a religious studies professor, cited biblical stories about figures such as Adam and Eve as well as Cain and Abel in his presentation to give context. Then he presented various historical depictions of the devil.

Aylesworth, who specializes in contemporary and continental philosophy, talked less about religion and instead analyzed the philosophical definition of words such as “existence”or “evil” and “good”. His ultimate conclusion was the devil does not exist.

“If we mean by that term (the devil), an entity that is absolutely malevolent in itself and the ground of all evil that appears in the world, then the answer must be no,” Alylesworth said. “The concept of the devil is the personification of a particular being or entity as the ground of certain appearances, but no existing or appearing thing can be its own ground and therefore the concept is a mistake.”

Sterling, who specializes in medieval philosophy and ethics, also discussed theoretical meanings of “evil”. While doing so, he mentioned his disagreement with the idea of evil being the lack of good because he said even the most vile people in history justified their actions with positive concepts like freedom and knowledge.

“None of them,” Sterling, referring to infamous dictators, rapists and serial killers, said. “Perused evil for its own sake.”

However, Sterling went on to say in his conclusion that a philosophical argument about the existence of a devil could not be made.

“No doubt, there are religious arguments you could give for the existence or non-existence of such a being,” Sterling said. “So as a philosopher at a philosophy debate, I stand aside with no verdict.”

The event moderator, Leon Mire, a senior philosophy and English major and self-identified atheist, said Sterling’s point was one of the reasons why he enjoyed listening to these men’s views on this topic.

Mire said although some panelists referenced the bible, it was mainly outside the realm of religion, which, in turn, made philosophy the prevailing subject during the panel.

Tori Coffman, a Christian and freshman philosophy major, agreed with Mire that the event satisfied philosophical views.

However, Coffman also said by trying to answer a religious question with philosophy, the panelists disregarded important details pertaining to this discussion.

“The question of whether the devil exists or not is, by nature, very religious, so to try and answer it without religion leaves out a lot of elements that are important,” Coffman said.

Backed by personal research done in the name of philosophy, these panelists proposed diverse conclusions about the existence of this evil being.


Molly Dotson can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]